Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Commend Spain on Legislation, Ask about Measures to Help Female Victims of Trafficking and to Improve Education for Roma, Refugee and Migrant Women
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its consideration of the ninth periodic report of Spain, with Committee Experts commending Spain on legislation and asking about measures to help female victims of trafficking and to improve education for Roma, refugee and migrant women.
Nicole Ameline, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Spain, congratulated Spain for the progress it had achieved. The State had made equality a driver of social innovation by legislating on key issues, including the fight against violence and feminicides; the reform of consent; the fight against sexual exploitation; trafficking in human beings; and the extension of the right to abortion.
A Committee Expert asked about the current situation of the adoption of the law on trafficking? What was the possibility of the adoption of a law on the abolition of prostitution and the criminalisation of the clients? The Government recognised increased vulnerability to trafficking in the agricultural sector. Additionally, labour officials noted concerns regarding the practice of companies sub-contracting, which increased the vulnerability of workers to exploitation. Could more detail be provided regarding cases of exploitation through labour?
Another Expert noted that it was estimated that almost 40 per cent of Roma women were uneducated. Migrant women also faced barriers in accessing education. Had the Government undertaken current data and research to determine the number of Roma, refugee and migrant girls who had difficulties accessing education? What measures had the Government undertaken to increase the access of these groups to quality education, including sexual and reproductive health education?
The delegation said until the entry into force of the new law, there was a national strategic plan against trafficking until 2023. The victim was the centre of this plan and measures were available to protect the victim. The national police had increased inspections in areas where they believed there was a risk of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Women were particularly vulnerable online and the Spanish Government focused on punishing perpetrators in this area. Labour inspectorates had been strengthened in farm work, and they checked on businesses in this area.
The delegation said the school plan for Roma and gypsy communities had been considerably increased. There were legal and economic measures to ensure the support reached those who needed it and improved the lives of women and girls in the gypsy community. The regulatory framework in Spain ensured sex education was compulsory. Sex education needed to promote joint responsibility and gender equality.
Ángela Rodríguez, State Secretary for Equality and against Gender Violence of Spain and head of the delegation, introducing the report, said Spain was a feminist State, which developed policies to protect all women without exception. In relation to gender-based violence, there was a sexual freedom law, and the 2010 Abortion Act had been amended following the Committee’s recommendation, allowing 16- and 17-year-old girls to have the right to abortion. The Convention had been disseminated, and the State strategy to combat chauvinist violence had been adopted. Victims received the same access to services no matter where they lived. There was also a tool to assess anti-chauvinist policies. Access to education for gypsy women was being improved, particularly for women with disabilities and Roma girls.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Rodríguez thanked the Committee for the tremendous dialogue which they had enjoyed. Political violence needed to be on the agenda and needed to be tackled head on. The United Nations could play a key role in this.
Marion Bethel, Committee Vice Chairperson and Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, which allowed the Committee to better understand the situation of women in Spain.
The delegation of Spain was comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation; the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Interior; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Social Rights and Agenda 2030; the ministry of Equality; the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration; and the Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eighty-fifth session is being held from 8 to 26 May. All documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed via the UN Web TV webpage.
The Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 17 May to review the seventh periodic report of Slovakia (CEDAW/C/SVK/7).
The Committee has before it the ninth periodic report of Spain (CEDAW/C/ESP/9).
Presentation of Report
AURORA DÍAZ-RATO REVUELTA, Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presented the members of the delegation.
ÁNGELA RODRÍGUEZ, Secretary of State for Equality and against Gender Violence of Spain and head of the delegation, said 17 women had been killed by gender-based violence in Spain so far this year; fighting against chauvinist violence was one of the State’s priorities. The second national human rights plan would soon be adopted and was part of Spain’s commitment to a feminist foreign policy. Spain was a feminist State, which developed policies to protect all women without exception. In relation to gender-based violence, there was a sexual freedom law, and the 2010 Abortion Act had been amended following the Committee’s recommendation, allowing 16- and 17-year-old girls to have the right the abortion. Transgender people were no longer considered medical cases, and conversion therapy had been banned. There was a family bill which extended protection, and same sex couples had the same rights.
The Convention had been disseminated, and the State strategy to combat chauvinist violence had been adopted. Victims received the same access to services no matter where they lived. There was also a tool to assess anti-chauvinist policies. Spain had enacted a number of the recommendations made by the Committee in 2015. Since 2020, Spain had for the second time a Ministry of Equality. The budget of the Ministry of Equality had been increased by 1,287 per cent – from 44.5 million euros in 2014 to 573 million in 2023. There was also an increase in the budget for civil society organizations.
There was an increased focus on intersectionality, particularly concerning lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and intersex persons as well as migrant women. Further concerning migrant women, Spain had increased knowledge of their rights and provided a hotline giving them counselling. Victims of sexual violence were given a residence permit and access to the job market. Victims of persecution because of sexual identity were provided with residency in Spain. Domestic workers had the same social security as other workers, including sick leave and paid holidays. Spain had reacted to the Ukraine crisis, receiving 168,000 persons requiring protection, with almost 70 per cent of these being women.
Spain was dealing with reconciling private and professional life; it was vital that children were cared for and brought up. There was a joint parental responsibility plan which had been disseminated through campaigns. The campaigns had been highly successful and won awards, opening up new topics of conversation. When it came to violence against women, sufficient funding had been provided; the budget had increased from 23.7 million euros in 2015 to 320 million euros today, a 1,350 per cent increase. There was a law which defined sexual violence as a non-consensual act and extended to many spheres in which violence was practiced, including schools, female genital mutilation, and human trafficking, among others. Many obligations had been developed in the area of due diligence to prevent such violence. Data was now collected on femicides, and campaigns had been developed to target men in this area.
There were plans to have a crisis centre in each province in Spain, meaning there was round the clock psychological and specialised care available. Spain had developed a plan on human trafficking. Victims now had an open door on housing, a plan for regularising their status, and a training and employment plan. This had already benefited more than 800 women. Access to education for gypsy women was being improved, particularly for women with disabilities and Roma girls.
In 2015, women’s participation in political life stood at 28 per cent and this figure had now reached 60 per cent. A pension reform had recently been undertaken, ensuring minimum pensions were increased. This meant women, especially those in the fishing sector, now had better options for their retirement, and at an earlier age. The Government had a steadfast commitment to sexual and reproductive rights. This included obligations established for childcare, data and training for gynaecological and obstetrics staff. Spain was proud of being a feminist country and would continue to work towards equal rights for women.
PATRICIA BARCENA GARCIA, Second Deputy Public Defender of Spain, said gender-based violence was still an issue in Spain. Although the concept had been broadened, there was a disparity been qualifying the victim and the support available. Work needed to be done to ensure public health services could be provided to all victims. Services needed to be provided to all victims, including those exposed to sexual violence. The family focal points needed to provide better care to focus on judicial aid and improve communication with the courts. The complaints procedure needed to be improved to ensure victims did not feel intimidated by police or judges. To ensure the full recovery of victims, there were economic guidelines recommended. There needed to be structural reform of the system for managing and providing shelter for women. There were still shortcomings in the system for protecting victims of trafficking. It was important to improve existing tools.
Questions by a Committee Expert
NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Spain, congratulated Spain for the progress it had achieved. The State had made equality a driver of social innovation by legislating on key issues, including the fight against violence and feminicides; the reform of consent; the fight against sexual exploitation; trafficking in human beings; and the extension of the right to abortion. Would the Convention be strengthened in Spanish policies? How did the State take stock of judicial specialisation? There were 106 courts specifically devoted to violence; was specialisation really the answer. Could the definition of the status of victims be broadened? What was the assessment of the universal protection of children, and the definition of consent at the age of 12?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said there was a preference of men above women in the Constitution. This needed a complex reform which would involve dissolving the courts and ratifying a referendum. At present, there were no plans to amend this article due to this process. Not all victims had the same opportunities to escape violence, particularly migrant women. There were special support measures for particular groups of women. It was critical for training to eradicate chauvinist behaviour. Those working in the justice system needed to understand the intersecting discrimination which could affect women. This law needed to ensure that there was mandatory training and protocols in place to deal with this kind of violence. It was important for victims to receive justice and reparations for what they had suffered. Consultations had been held with civil society and a draft was issued calling for their comments. These groups had a vital role in promoting women’s rights.
In 2021, the Spanish Government adopted a feminist foreign policy to achieve effective equality beyond the State’s borders, in order to meet international obligations as well as the 2030 Agenda. Spain led the European Union training on gender mainstreaming in peace processes. With the United Nations Population Fund, there were more than 500 mobile health units established for rural areas. There needed to be a specific budget and qualitative indicators which allowed for measures to be assessed. There was a government act which set out two stages of civil society consultations; prior consultation and consultation with the cabinet. There was extensive monitoring by civil society on the abortion law and the trans law. Regarding the trans law, there had been over 60,000 inputs and more than 7,000 people had called for the adoption of the law. In 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that children could change gender reassignment on their identity documents. The trans law stated that there did not need to be any kind of hormone treatment for the civil registration information to be changed; this was now enshrined in the Constitution.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked if a law been enacted which would define what discrimination was? Did women in Spain participate in equal terms with men in the armed forces?
Another Committee Expert commended the restoration of the Ministry of Equality, and acknowledged systematic training and plans provided to police and forces. How did the State party reinforce the application of the Convention? What was the role of the Women’s Institute? How was gender equality integrated in climate plans? Did the State collect disaggregated data through all stages of the criminal justice system, particularly regarding divorce and child custody?
One Committee Expert congratulated Spain for the considerable progress made since the last time they had appeared before the Committee. There had been significant progress in temporary special measures in the State, including the law on equal treatment and non-discrimination which came into force in 2022. It was pleasing to see there was a draft bill for equal representation of women and men in decision-making posts. This was all significant progress.
Were intersectional measures planned to ensure public participation of gypsy women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex women, and women with disabilities? What temporary special measures were planned for the labour market and in businesses?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said those within the judiciary received continual training on topics, including violence against women, sexual violence, and human trafficking. This training was now mandatory across the board and an increased number of courses were available. Children with disabilities and gypsy women were prioritised. There was a special section within the constitutional reform dedicated to women and children with disabilities. Women who had been victims of gender-based violence were included as part of the administrative process, to ensure they did not have to wait so long and that their rights were upheld. Women with disabilities suffered from institutional violence. Reports helped the Government to compile public policies to eradicate this violence. There needed to be social protection available for women who were vulnerable on an intersectional level. Next year, 2024, was to be called the year for women and girls with disabilities. Funds had been invested to ensure that public services geared towards women were accessible. A report had been issued which found that 80 per cent of climate refugees were women and girls. A national plan addressing the climate had been created, including tools which streamlined gender.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about the new law of 2022; the democratic memory law which instituted the right to memory and included a provision that secondary schools must teach students about the dictatorship. How did education address chauvinism? How was poverty addressed as a structural cause of violence and stereotypes? What would be done to mitigate violence and stereotypes in workplaces? How was the Government tackling violence online committed against women?
Another Committee Expert asked about the current status of the adoption of the law on trafficking? What was the possibility of the adoption of the law on the abolition of prostitution and the criminalisation of the clients? The Government recognised increased vulnerability to trafficking in the agricultural sector. Additionally, labour officials noted concerns regarding the practice of companies sub-contracting which increased worker vulnerabilities to exploitation. Could more detail be provided regarding cases of exploitation through labour?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said until the entry into force of the new law, there was a national strategic plan against trafficking until 2023. The victim was the centre of this plan and measures were available to protect victims. The national police had increased inspections in areas where they believed there was a risk of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Women were particularly vulnerable online and the Spanish Government focused on punishing perpetrators in this area. Spain was committed to combatting trafficking; it was essential that perpetrators were prosecuted and victims were protected. A national mechanism had been established for referral.
There was an incalculable debt to victims of exploitation and trafficking. The first labour integration plan had been drawn up by Spain for women victims of trafficking and prostitution. The plan aimed to provide a roadmap for survivors. There needed to be accurate data to back up policies; there would be a large-scale survey on trafficking and prostitution to obtain this. Eradicating stereotypes and violence against women had been considered within the gender equality plan. Un-stereotypical images of women were being disseminated. The State was working on communication initiatives to eradicate stereotypes. There had been a great deal invested in advertising campaigns to combat gender stereotypes which had a considerable impact on public opinions.
Two new regulations had been introduced for seasonal workers to ensure good working conditions for circular migrants, and the continuity of employment between seasons. Labour inspectorates had been strengthened in farm work, and they checked on businesses in this area. The sexual freedom law recognised victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation as victims of violence. Therefore, all the provisions contained in the law on violence against women covered this group. They did not need to be deported and could receive care, legal aid and training through their integration plans. Sex buyers were criminalised, as well as those who ran brothels where prostitution took place. Pimping was a true problem in Spain, so the Government was trying to close the gap. Women victims of trafficking needed to cooperate with law enforcement officials, and were then eligible to receive access to social services through an administrative procedure, and could receive temporary residence and work permits. Once the law on trafficking was adopted, there would be some meaningful progress in Spain.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked if there would there be a due diligence rule to address the deeply rooted gender stereotypes in the workplace?
NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Spain, asked if there was an assessment on the work of the specialised courts, where the cases seemed to be long and complex? What improvements could be made? Were there means to detect cases of female genital mutilation and eradicate them? How was the issue of domestic violence affecting children addressed?
Another Expert asked if there would be a law criminalising buyers of prostitution?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said sometimes an adult could influence a child online in how to use their body to gratify someone else, without physical contact. This was also considered as a crime. The Government had been using preventative and awareness raising campaigns to target female genital mutilation, and had a complaints mechanism to identify cases. Since 2007, there had been a monitoring system for gender-based violence. This had been improved over the years and the protocols had been strengthened. In Spain there were courts on gender-based violence and training was provided to police forces. The huge advantage of this system was that there was just one court dealing with criminal and civil proceedings when it came to cases of gender-based violence.
The law on sexual freedoms was becoming the standard throughout Europe. The law on childhood had become an obligation to adopt certain methodologies, and training for authorities so they understood how to listen to children. In Spain today, there were administrative penalties metered out for clients of prostitution and the women involved. Unfortunately, sometimes women received these penalties more than the clients.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked what kind of measures the State party had adopted for increasing women’s representation in the judiciary? What was the gender representation in the management of sport federations, tech companies, and universities? What was the number of women diplomats and representatives in international organizations? What was being done to stimulate girls in the leadership process? What was the representation of women with disabilities in Parliament and at the ministerial level?
Another Committee Expert said there was a substantial backlog for asylum applications to be reviewed. What was the possibility of speeding up the assessment and resolution of these claims? In 2020, a court endorsed a law which established a special regime for the rejection of asylum requests at the borders in Ceuta and Melilla. How was this law assessed?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said Spain had not yet managed to achieve parity. There had been improvements since 2019 and it was getting closer to parity. Women with disabilities in political life were still a minority, although a lot had changed. Women came up against barriers to access decision-making positions. Spain was taking great strides to try and train women with disabilities, so they knew their rights. People with disabilities were supported and their voices needed be heard.
Since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine in 2022, Spain had immediately responded, and set up measures to help refugees from the Ukrainian conflict. This included four centres which had been established to welcome, care for and support those fleeing.
The use of force by law enforcement officials was restricted to very strict conditions in Spain. A mechanism in the police assessed the action of law enforcement officials, and their behaviour regarding human rights.
The delegation said that women were aware that they could reach decision making positions, not just on the basis of quotas.
There was a Council for eradicating racial ethnic discrimination. There had been a massacre in Melilla and there needed to be reparation for the lives which had been lost.
Questions by a Committee Expert
A Committee Expert said the Committee commended Spain for the amendment of the act which recognised the right to education for all, and other pieces of legislation and programmes enacted by the Government. It was estimated that almost 40 per cent of Roma women were uneducated. Migrant women also faced barriers in accessing education. Had the Government undertaken current data and research to determine the number of Roma, refugee and migrant girls who had difficulties accessing education? What measures had the Government undertaken to increase the access of these groups to quality education, including sexual reproductive health education? What had the Government done to remedy the lost time in education as a result of the pandemic.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said there was a disparity in the access of women and girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Many measures were being taken to close the gap in these courses. These included changing the way the subjects were taught to avoid gender bias and to push girls towards these subjects. There was a large budget for study grants which were awarded on a means tested basis. The school plan for gypsy communities had been considerably increased. There were legal and economic measures to ensure the support reached those who needed it and improved the lives of women and girls in the gypsy community. The regulatory framework in Spain had enabled sex education to be compulsory. Sex education needed to promote joint responsibility and gender equality. Consent needed to be an integral part of sex education. The law also stipulated that children needed to be educated about diverse families, sexually transmitted diseases and menstrual health from an early age.
Questions by Committee Experts and Responses
A Committee Expert asked what mechanisms existed to ensure that all companies of more than 50 employees developed gender equality plans? How was this implementation monitored? How were cases of sexual harassment at work punished? In the Canary Islands, women faced difficulties gaining employment in the police and fire departments? How was it ensured these plans were implemented nationally? How was parenting as a responsibility for both men and women promoted in workplaces?
The delegation said it was compulsory for companies with over 50 employees to draw up equality plans. There were certain compulsory contents including the number of women in decision-making posts and protocols for combatting sexual harassment. There were more than 12,500 registered equality plans in Spain; around 40 per cent of those required to produce a plan. There had been a strategic project for transforming the care sector; 800 million euros would be invested to improve the skills of care workers. Height restrictions would be eradicated for entry to the national police force, in order to increase the number of women. In the next decade it was hoped Spain would have a State plan for care. This would mean any father or mother could leave their children in public facilities, to continue their working day.
An Expert asked who monitored the implementation of the equality plans?
The delegation said equality plans were negotiated with trade unions and lawyers’ networks. This meant follow-up was regularly conducted. The trade unions assessed whether the equality plan was successful.
NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Spain, asked what measures were being envisaged to ensure true equality for marginalised populations? It was reported that 27 per cent of employees in Spain were considering leaving their work. Had these possible resignations in a post-COVID world led to any research? Was there a problem with burnout? What was being done to prevent addictions from being created within school? What about the addiction of the internet?
The delegation said there was now a three-month prison sentence for anyone attempting to obstruct access to abortion. There needed to be a follow-up of all strategies. The Government was looking at how job insecurity had an impact on mental health. A law on time and work life balance was being enacted to ensure women could properly integrate into the labour sector. This issue would be crucial moving forwards.
A Committee Expert said social services in Spain were confronted with a myriad of challenges which had increased feminised poverty. How did the State plan to reform and tailor access to social services for the most vulnerable populations, including Roma and migrant women? What plans were in place to accelerate implementation of asylum? What were the number of grants which focused on economic empowerment for asylum seekers? What measures were in place to provide housing for migrant and Roma women? What measures were there to fight poverty, which targeted women’s economic empowerment? What grants had been issued to rural women and how had this impacted them?
The delegation said the Government had explicitly acknowledged Roma women in all of their policies. A draft bill was underway which guaranteed access to equality in social services. Regardless of where women lived, they should have equal access to social services. Refugee women received immediate aid, social assistance aid and integration assistance. There were few rural women who owned their own farms and reached decision making positions. The Government was promoting joint ownership of farms, but could make more improvements. There were specific subsidies for women in rural areas to promote innovative initiatives for them to take part in decision-making. In the national rural network training plan, the gender perspective was cross-cutting. Migrant women continued to face a difficult situation. Spain was aware that instruments needed to be fine-tuned and had been working on incorporating intersectionality, as per the Committee’s recommendations.
A Committee Expert said continuing sexist stereotypes posed challenges in ensuring law and practice were fully aligned. Although a law had been adopted which amended provisions of the Civil Code, and the minimum age of marriage had been raised to 18, exceptions were allowed. Would there be a total ban on underage marriage? Was there a strategy for dealing with forced marriage in certain social groups, including Roma? These were often not seen as being forced as they were closely linked to cultures. What was being done to ensure Roma and gypsy women were aware of mechanisms which would give them access to justice? How was compulsory training for judicial operators in the family courts being provided? Were there penalties for those who had chauvinistic mentalities which impacted their decisions?
The delegation said the Civil Code was amended in 2015 to ensure that the minimum age of marriage, even in exceptional circumstances, was 16. The Family Code contained provisions to penalise certain acts pertaining to forced marriage. If forced marriage was entered into, the sentence would include reparation to victims, and if children resulted, maintenance payments needed to be made. The Committee believed in the role of education to combat stereotypes. The joint parenting plan played an important role in changing stereotypes. Men were targeted and grants were provided to those who were working in this space. There was a law covering victims of forced marriage.
A Committee Expert said it was understood from the response that the State was not planning to stop marriage for children between the ages of 16 and 18. Even if they were emancipated, they were still minors. Would the State not consider amending this?
The delegation said this issue was not currently on the agenda. This had been raised in parliament and rejected as it was the age of sexual consent, the age one could work, and the age abortion was permitted.
ÁNGELA RODRÍGUEZ, State Secretary for Equality and against Gender Violence of Spain and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for the tremendous dialogue which they had enjoyed. Political violence needed to be on the agenda and needed to be tackled head on. The United Nations could play a key role in this.
MARION BETHEL, Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, which allowed the Committee to better understand the situation of women in Spain.
Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the media;
not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.